What beliefs and cultural models do youth who are underrepresented in science have about the domain of science and about themselves as science learners? What do they imagine is possible for them in relation to science both now and in the future? In other words, what constitutes their figured world of science? This dissertation study, using a mixed methods design, offers new perspectives on the ways that underrepresented youth’s unexamined assumptions or cultural models and resources may shape their identities and motivation to learn science. Through analyses of survey and interview data, I found that urban African American youths’ social context, gender, racial identity, and perceptions of the science they had in school influenced their motivation to learn science. Analyses of short-term classroom observations and interviews suggested that students had competing cultural models that they used in their constructions of identities as science learners, which they espoused and adopted in relation to how well they leveraged the science-related cultural resources available to them. Results from this study suggested that these 7th graders would benefit from access to more expansive cultural models through access to individuals with scientific capital as a way to allow them to create fruitful identities as science learners. If we want to ensure that students from groups that are underrepresented in science not only have better outcomes, but aspire to and enter the science career pipeline, we must also begin to support them in their negotiations of competing cultural models that limit their ability to adopt science-learner identities in their classrooms. This study endeavored to understand the particular cultural models and motivational beliefs that drive students to act, and what types of individuals they imagine scientists and science workers to be. This study also examined how cultural models and resources influence identity negotiation, specifically the roles youths envision for themselves as science students
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